100 Years of Hockey: Exploring the Program’s History and Future

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This article discussing a brief introductory history of the hockey program appeared in the Fall 2022 edition of Hamptonia, the Magazine of New Hampton School. The full issue may be found online.

In Jacobson Arena, forest green and white championships banners of years of accolades present a living history of the success of the men’s and women’s hockey teams. History is told on the lobby wall in trimmings of glass plaques, aluminum, and archival photos. To be sure, celebrating 100 years of hockey is another special moment in the School’s history. The New Hampton School hockey program began in 1923 when several young men formed a team that met regularly to play hockey on Kimball Pond. At that time, weather dictated the groups’ ability to play, and seasons were often limited due to warming temperatures. The first men’s hockey team at New Hampton School called themselves the Varsity Pucksters.

New Hampton School’s first hockey team took to the ice in 1923.

From the onset, the Varsity Pucksters modeled strong play and sportsmanship, which continued through the 20s and 30s. As the team solidified and talent boomed, the coaches sought a better practice venue and often traveled up the road to Holderness School to play. The program saw its first New England Division I Championship in 1945. In 1950, Lansing Bicknell coached two seasons of varsity men’s hockey, including the Lawrenceville Invitation Hockey Tournament, and “although they did not win, they fully enjoyed the experience and the opportunity of seeing Princeton.” The team held practices behind Randall Hall while playing games on the pond.

In this 1964 image, we get a great view of the outdoor rink of the time.
In this 1964 image, we get a great view of the outdoor rink of the time.

Building momentum

Coach Skip Howard joined the New Hampton Hockey program in the 1960s, and the hockey program began to grow once more. Shortly after that, the rink moved in front of Frederick Smith Hall. However, the sun’s direction often affected the playing surface, causing significant melting challenges. The natural rink did not deter New Hampton from establishing its program and enthusiasm for the sport. In 1973-1974, with a 16-4 record, the varsity men won another Lakes Region Championship. The program continued to flourish under coaches Mike McShane, Joe Marsh, Charlie Molloy, and Mark Trivett. The hockey program gained momentum and began attracting sophisticated players. The men’s team went on to win the National Prep School Championship in 1977 and again in 1988. From 1977 to 1984, the New Hampton Hockey program won the Lakes Region title for eight consecutive years.

The then-new rink as set up in 1976.

In 1981, just a decade after becoming coeducational again, New Hampton School’s women’s team joined the hockey program. This effort was led by Anne Barach ’77, Anne Chase, and Anne Thompson. The team would gain momentum over the years to follow, establishing their teamwork and commitment on the ice year after year.

In 1982, F. Merrill Lindsay ’29 became the major contributor to a new hockey rink named in his honor. The following year, the season’s highlight was completing the new cement floor and roof on the rink. With the addition of locker rooms, a functional Zamboni, and a roof to cover the surface, the Merrill Lindsay Arena served as a home to the Huskies for many years.

A thank you to Merrill Lindsay ’29 for his support in creating a new indoor open-air rink on campus in 1983.

By the early ’10s, Lindsay was showing its age, and a call went out to “Think Rink” among alumni. Through the generosity of several individuals, including lead donor and New Hampton School Trustee Dean Jacobson ’68, funds were generated, and construction began on a new arena in 2015.

Jacobson Arena was dedicated in November 2016 in time for the 2016-2017 hockey season.

Stepping into the modern era

At the time of Jacobson Arena’s opening in 2016, the women’s varsity hockey team was ranked sixth in New England. And for the first time in its history, the women’s team made the Division I tournament due to the team’s strength, including former assistant coach Erica Shapey and current Head Coach Craig Churchill. The women’s teams have achieved 6 Lakes Region Championships and won the title in the 2017 NEPSAC Division I Championship. The 2022 Huskies earned second in the Division I Championship after facing a highly competitive schedule throughout the season and tournament. The women’s teams have seen players frequently go to Division I NCAA schools, in addition to several graduates playing, coaching, and managing in professional leagues within the United States and Canada.

After winning the 2017 Lakes Region Championship, shown here, the women’s varsity hockey team went on to claim the Division I NEPSAC Championship for the first time in the program’s history.

Similarly, the varsity men’s hockey team is an annual playoff contender in the New England Prep School Athletic Conference and routinely graduates players to top NCAA schools. The men have two varsity squads, demonstrating the strong call that the program continues to hold on upcoming hockey players. Modern-era coaching teams, from Mike Levine ’00 to Casey Kesselring and current Head Coach Connor Gorman ’11, have led the Huskies to successful seasons and knowledgeable leaders to test their skills.

As we enter this 100th year of hockey, we look forward to celebrating the many who have made this program so successful, the alums who brought it to new heights, and the current student-athletes who seek their legacies in this joyful and gritty sport.

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